It’s not in Wisconsin, where the recall of Governor Scott Walker can have only two possible outcomes. It’s in California, where Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein—long the most popular pol in the state—is facing a large field of non-entities as she campaigns for re-election, and where the challenger who may well emerge from the pack to take her on is California’s leading birther: Republican dentist Orly Taitz.
Twenty-three candidates are vying to take on Feinstein in November, and not one is remotely serious, even if we define seriousness down to having the capacity to raise just a million dollars in America’s most costly state, and to being known as at least a modestly reputable person to 10 percent of the electorate.
Essentially, Republicans have given up on running statewide in California, which has no Republican statewide elected officials and lopsidedly Democratic congressional and legislative delegations (likely to become more so after November). In 2010, GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman spent more than $150 million of her own money in an attempt to defeat Democrat Jerry Brown, and came up notably short. This year GOP field amounts to a collective admission of Republican despair.
The state Republican establishment has split its endorsements between Elizabeth Emken, an autism activist from rural Northern California, and Al Martinez, a Santa Monica small businessman. Neither has ever held public office. Emken has raised more than any other challenger, but it’s a paltry $328,000, which would be on the low-side even if she were running for an assembly seat. Neither Emken nor Martinez has Taitz’s name recognition, even if Taitz’s recognition (more precisely, notoriety) is due to her repeated assertions—well before Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Donald took up the cry—that President Obama was born in Kenya.
The prospect that Taitz could actually emerge as the GOP alternative to Feinstein horrifies state Republicans. Besides embarrassing Romney, it would make a party that already has marginalized itself in state voters’ eyes by its anti-immigrant, anti-tax, anti-modernity fanaticism look even more ridiculous. This year’s new election law has also led to the creation of new congressional and legislative districts drawn by a non-partisan commission, and many of those districts, accordingly, will be highly competitive in November. That the Republican ticket in the state could be headed by a candidate who even by the state GOP’s low standards looks like a lunatic will not help GOP turnout or morale.
Then again, under California’s new electoral law, which stipulates that the top two finishers in the June primary, regardless of party affiliation, run off in November, it’s also possible that Feinstein’s general-election opponent may be a Democrat, though the Democratic alternatives on the ballot are even more obscure than the Republicans. But Republicans may actually prefer that outcome to having their ticket headed by Taitz.